A crowd of early Black Friday birds at a Los Angeles-area Wal Mart got more than they bargained for as they tried to gobble up great deals Thursday night: chemical warfare. According to reports, up to 20 people were injured when an unidentified woman deployed pepper spray on her fellow shoppers, allegedly in order to gain an advantage in securing deals on discounted electronic items. Reports on injuries vary, but according to the Associated Press, 20 people received minor injuries, some due to “rapid crowd movement.”
From the AP:
A woman shot pepper spray to keep shoppers from merchandise she wanted during a Black Friday sale, and 20 people suffered minor injuries, authorities said.
The incident occurred shortly after 10:20 p.m. Thursday in a crowded Los Angeles-area Walmart as shoppers hungry for deals were let inside the store.
Police said the suspect shot the pepper spray when the coverings over the items she wanted were removed.
“Somehow she was trying to use it to gain an upper hand,” police Lt. Abel Parga told The Associated Press early Friday.
He said she was apparently after some electronics and used the pepper spray to keep other shoppers at bay.
The woman is still at large.
Although this is definitely not the best way to kick off the holiday season, such Black Friday mayhem has become almost an annual rite, and with far deadlier consequences. For example, in 2008, 34 year-old Wal Mart employee Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death at a Long Island Wal Mart by an over-eager Black Friday crowd. Following that incident, Wal Mart reached a settlement with prosecutors to avoid criminal prosecutions, and spent millions fighting a $7000 OSHA fine to avoid setting a precedent that might allow the agency to require retailers to take responsibility for crowd safety.
This pepper spray incident, coming as it does on the heels of the UC Davis police attack on Occupy protesters, is sure to provoke discussion of this kind of consumerist sociopathy as it relates to the 99%. It’s tempting to blame retailers, abetted by a mainstream media that fills its Thanksgiving business reports with Black Friday hype, for creating the conditions for such chaos, but consumers are way past the “fool me twice” stage. It’s about time we stopped dancing to the Black Friday tune.
Here’s a video report on the incident from Toledo NBC affiliate WNWO, in which anchor China Sellers also discusses her own trip to a local Wal Mart, and one of her co-hosts urges viewers to “go to Target, where it’s safe!”
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